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Haitian Students, UT Community Unites

Published: January 25, 2010
UT students Melissa Jiha and Coralie Moscoco were at home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti during the winter break. They were there when the earth shook. They were there to hear the screams of their neighbors. They were there to help pull friends, family and strangers from the rubble.

Though they are now back at UT studying, their hearts and minds are still in Haiti. But there is one thing they know for sure.

“We’re alive for a reason,” said Jiha ’10, who is majoring in public health. “We’ve got to do something.”

Jiha and Moscoco ’11 as well as the rest of UT’s Haitian community, plus UT’s students, faculty and staff, have come together in a campus-wide effort to raise money and collect donations for the survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake that claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people.

Dr. Marca Bear, associate dean of International Programs, said that historically in times of crisis, UT students step up to the plate. It is no different with the earthquake in Haiti.

“They are rallying,” Bear said of the events which were being organized before spring semester started by students of all backgrounds. “I think they’re internationally focused and can think beyond their backyard.”

A candlelight vigil will be held on Friday, Jan. 29, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Vaughn Center courtyard. Several of UT’s Haitian students will talk and share photos they took of the devastation. T-shirts and wristbands are being sold, for $10 and $5 respectively, in Vaughn Center lobby, with funds going to the American Red Cross.

Beginning next week, donation boxes will be placed around campus to collect items like flashlights, batteries, hand sanitizer and blankets. Empty coffee cans labeled “Change for Haiti” will allow those passing by to empty their pockets of loose change.

At the end of February, author Amy Wilentz, who has written many books about Haiti such as  The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier , will give a presentation at UT. Down the road, Bear said she’d like to follow-up with additional speakers to study the progress of the Haitian recovery.

It’s a holistic approach to helping with the crisis, said Bear, and a way to show the UT Haitian students they are supported.

“We have a small campus, and we’re tight knit,” said Kristy Ramos, international student services advisor. “It’s our job to make sure they’re OK. It’s going to be a tough time, and we’ll be here to support them.”

Marco Duverseau ’12, came back to the U.S. from Haiti a couple days before the earthquake. His parents, both doctors, are working around the clock in the understaffed hospitals and clinics in his home country. He wanted to return to help with the relief effort, but his father urged him to stay in Tampa, where he could focus on his own future.

“It is this new generation in Haiti that is going to make change,” said Duverseau who is majoring in biochemistry. “We have to put emotion aside. The only thing you want to do is help, help, help.” 

The three students said they all have hope that Haiti will have a bright future. They quote the Haitian flag which states that unity brings strength.

“We saw the end of the world. I thought I was going to die,” Jiha said. “But I have faith Haiti will rebuild stronger and better.”

For more information on how to help, contact the International Programs Office at (813) 258-7433 or , the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement at (813) 253-6233 or , or the PEACE Volunteer Center at (813) 253-6263 or .

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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